Earlier this year, the European Union adopted guidelines making a distinction between the State of Israel and its “entities” in the Palestinian territories it has occupied since 1967. The guidelines deem those entities ineligible for EU grants, prizes and financial instruments from 2014 onwards.
On its face, the EU decision gives the impression of a fundamental, essential and positive change in EU policy and approach to Palestine. However, Palestinians as well as solidarity movements should not rely on this EU decision.
The decision sounds anti-occupation but it actually serves to legitimize the colonial Israeli system, the driving force behind the occupation, including its “entities.”
Settlements do not determine policy; they are the inevitable outcome of the fundamental policy of Israel, rooted deep in Israeli society and in governmental, semi-governmental and non-governmental structures.
All settlements are backed by Israeli law and the legal system; they are a strategic state enterprise and considered a mainstay of Israel. According to Israeli law, these “entities” are considered legal and justified, protected by the state and served at all levels by all state structures.
Settlements are treated by the government the same way as sites in present-day Israel, but with more benefits. These include cheap housing, a “high national priority” in terms of government budgets, as well as a taxation policy that gives incentives for living in settlements.
Meanwhile the Israeli police, rather than the army, keep order and serve the settler population. The settlements are also served by civilian courts, not the Israeli military court system — in stark contrast to Israel’s military administration of the Palestinian population in the West Bank.
Israeli settler-colonization is not a policy adopted after the 1967 occupation; it’s an outcome of the 1948 occupation and the Nakba or ethnic cleansing of Palestine. For example, Nazareth Illit inside present-day Israel is built on land confiscated from Nazareth and eight other nearby villages. It’s much like the Maale Adumim settlement, which is built on stolen Palestinian land in the West Bank.
Israel is a rich, developed country. It’s a member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. The government is committed to serving the settlements and their populations, at the same level or higher as Tel Aviv or Haifa.
Boycott the entire state
The Israeli government has enough resources to fund and budget anything the EU will not fund.
The so-called Green Line marking the boundary between present-day Israel and the West Bank does not exist in Israeli eyes. Israel is one governing entity — one system oriented to Zionist colonial ideology at all levels. To limit the EU “sanctions” on settlements, means, de facto, to justify the state’s colonial system and colonial nature. It means to legalize the system.
The EU statement may look fine, but behind the nice, promising words, it aims to delegitimize the colonial “entities” but legitimize the colonial state.
The only way for the EU to have real impact is to sanction and boycott Israel as a state, including all its systems, to sanction the core system, not just the branches of its policy outcomes.
A just peace will never be achieved by the EU’s current approach.
Ameer Makhoul is a Palestinian civil society leader and political prisoner at Gilboa Prison.